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Seventh-day Adventist Becomes Papua New Guinea's Deputy Prime Minister

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea ... [ANN]

The former Papua New Guinea Speaker of Parliament, John Pundari was appointed as Papua New Guinea’s new Deputy Prime Minister in a political upheaval that saw a change of government this week.  Pundari is a skilled, young banker and a “mercurial career” politician.  He is also a member of one of the Port Moresby local Seventh-day Adventist congregations.

Although widely tipped to be elected as the nation’s youngest leader ever, after Prime Minister Bill Skate resigned last week, Pundari, 32, joined with the opposition coalition and supported the appointment of Sir Mekere Morauta as Prime Minister in a new government on Wednesday, July 14.

According to press reports, Pundari strongly criticized the country’s political establishment several weeks ago, saying that he had a moral duty to fight economic mismanagement and the corruption which is endemic in most walks of Papua New Guinea life.

Pundari, the leader of the Advance PNG Party, was first elected to Parliament only seven years ago and became Deputy Prime Minister without having served as a minister.

Elected only seven years ago as the member for Kompiam-Ambun in PNG’s Enga province, Pundari was elevated to the post of Speaker in 1997.  As Speaker, Pundari became known for fairness in his dealings with government and opposition members of Parliament.

In February, Pundari, accompanied by his family, visited the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.  He spoke of his personal convictions about a need for high moral values in political and social life.  He expresses such convictions openly, setting a high standard of public service for those who are elected as civil servants.

Pundari identified educational and health needs as paramount for PNG.
“Education is one area in which the Church can contribute greatly,” said Pundari.  “We need to do much more for both primary and secondary schooling.  I am also very grateful for the health services provided by the Adventist Church, for with a healthy population, the development of a country is assured.”

Seventh-day Adventists, with membership of over 175,000 in PNG, are known for their educational, health and humanitarian services.  Many elected politicians in PNG are Seventh-day Adventists.

Pundari also emphasizes the importance of family values and their promotion in society. 

“Churches impart positive family values.  I promote them myself, since I have learned much through being a member of the Adventist Church.  I call upon all churches to educate parents in the importance of family values, for the strength of any nation is in the family.”

Pundari says that his country needs honest and genuine leaders, and criticized members of Parliament for damaging PNG’s image through their behavior while on trips overseas.  He called for greater accountability of civil servants to the people they represent.

Reacting to the news, John Graz, the Church’s Public Affairs Director, recalled Pundari’s two visits to the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters, in 1996 and again in February 1999.  He noted that the media reports about Pundari, speculating of his rise to leadership, are very positive, especially concerning his decisions to fight corruption and work closely with the needs of the people.

In his letter to the new Deputy Prime Minister, Graz said, “You are a modern Joseph, a modern Daniel, and a fabulous example for our members and especially for our young people.  Your faith in God and your integrity will be your strength, and always know that your worldwide network of brothers and sisters are praying for you.” [Ray Dabrowski]